Up until the advent of the internet, the only way to hear a song was to either get it on CD (or record or tape, depending on your era), find it on the radio, or go to a concert. You had no other options. This was really the only way to distribute media. Then, with the advent of the internet, music streaming took off.

Here I present a few options for you. There are plenty more, but these are three of the biggest.

1. Rhapsody
Rhapsody
The Good:

  • Unlimited listening
  • No commercials
  • Good Desktop client
  • Mobile devices supported w/offline playing

The Bad:

  • Only one mobile device aloud per account (unless you pay extra)
  • More expensive then other services
  • Only available in the U.S.

This is my current solution for music streaming. The arrival of Spotify, however, is really, if you will let me use this cliche, stealing Rhapsody’s thunder. I Rhapsody definitely has its drawbacks. Most notably that you have to pay to start listening

Rhapsody premium ($9.99) gives you unlimited listening, as well as offline listening on a mobile device. You get access to all 12 million + songs in the database, as well as internet radio stations and community built playlists. For $15.99 a month, you can upgrade your account to let you download songs to up to three mobile devices instead of just one.

Rhapsody works. But it’s limited availability and slightly higher prices, I don’t prefer it.

2. Spotify
Spotify
The Good:

  • Cheap (free, $5/month and $10/month options)
  • Unlimited listening to what you want to listen to
  • Large song library (15 Million +)

The Bad:

  • Ad supported (free version)
  • Only available in some countries ( Sweden, Spain, Norway, Finland, France, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States)
  • Not available on mobile devices unless you pay

Rise up and sing people of America, Spotify has landed. It was not until recently that this music streaming service was available in the states because of copyright issues. Spotify comes with three plans. Free, unlimited, and premium.

The free version allows for unlimited listening in the USA (this will change soon), or 10 hours a month elsewhere of whatever you want to listen to. It will even keep track of your local files (and synch them to your mobile device) for you. The only downside of this is that it is ad supported, and you can’t stream music using Spotify on you portable device (you can, however, listen to those local files that it synced).

The unlimited version ($4.99 USD/month or £4.99/month) removes the ads from the service and allows for unlimted listening (not a problem right now in the US). There is still no mobile device streaming however.

The premium version ($9.99/month or £9.99/month) gives a few additional features. Most notably is the ability to use Spotify on mobile devices. With Spotify Premium you can stream music to your phone, or you can download them to your mobile devices (or compupter) for offline listening. Note, downloaded tracks can only be played and used by the Spotify application. You can use these mobile features on up to three devices.

Overall, Spotify is an excellent service, and one that I will hopefully be switching to in the near future. I recommend it for anyone.

3. Pandora
Pandora
The Good

  • Free (with paid options)
  • Can help you discover new music
  • Runs on almost all platforms (mobile included)

The Bad

  • You can’t select your own songs (it is internet radio)
  • Listening limited to 40 hours per month (can pay for more)
  • Ad supported (for the free version)
  • Only available in the U.S.

Pandora is no doubt the leading name in internet radio. Backed by the Music Genome Project, Pandora does an incredible job at selecting songs that you will like. The service is free for 40 hours of listening a month, which is plenty for most people. There are ads, but there are relatively few and they are all less then 30 seconds. If you run out of your 40 hours never fear! For 99 cents you can extend your listening time to unlimited for the rest of the month.

For $36 a year you can upgrade to Pandora One, which gives you unlimited listening and no ads, as well as a desktop application.

All in all, Pandora is another good service. However, if you live somewhere besides the U.S. you will need to search for other options.

Obviously there are a ton of other music streaming options out there. These include services like Grooveshark, Last.FM and Slacker. But these are the three leaders in the market.

What about you? Do you use any of these services? If so do you pay for them, or use the free version? I’d love to hear from you, leave me a comment below!

Categories: Internet Music
  • Thyrkas

    Nice job on the comparisons. I had no idea there was anything out there besides Pandora. Have you checked out MPR’s streamed Radio Heartland?  It describes itself as acoustic and eclectic. It is streamed 24/7 with a dab of real live people from 6am-9am,M-F (I think) It is public radio, so you have to be willing to hear pleas for your money from time to time.

    • http://soundcalledmusic.com Patrick Wells

      I have not, I will have to check it out!